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Locally Brewed: Black Sands


Maybe you’ve never heard of Black Sands beer but that’s about to change with the launch of two hand-made craft beers, Black Sands Pilsener and Black Sands India Pale Ale, that already have the beer connoisseurs blogging their praises.

Needless to say, with a name like Black Sands they’re a proudly West Auckland product, being made right here in Kelston and because we’re keen to promote all things good about West Auckland, it’s sold through West Liquor and other Trusts outlets. Both are brewed from New Zealand ingredients and are literally hand-made right down to the fact that the bottles are bottled and labelled one by one.

In reviewing the Pilsener, connoisseur blogger said “beer this good should be chained up and made to only come out on weekends. This is more than a Pilsener; it’s a Pilsener with a Pale Ale uncle that just gets better as it sits in the glass.”

The back story of this nectar of the gods started when Ian Hebblethwaite pioneered “pineapple beer” (“we weren’t quite so discerning then”) and served it up to schoolmates at his boarding school at Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa. In the short term, this “led” to a welcome profit, then a severe caning and the destruction of his “brewery”. In the long term it planted the beginnings of a passion for well-made beer that would eventually come to full-flower in West Auckland.

Ian, now a passionate Westie (“West Auckland gets under your skin”) got together, some years later, with keen West Auckland beer drinker Peter Osborne (yes he was called ‘Ozzie” at school). They bought a 50 litre micro-brewery and more as a hobby initially, set about making the beers that they liked. Over two years they may have produced something like a hundred recipes and thousands of beers before settling on the rich, full bodied, beers they personally liked best.

It may be that some things are meant to happen. Just when the friends were deciding that they had a good product to take to market on a commercial basis, the 600 litre Scotts Brewery came on the market in Westech Place, Kelston. They bought it lock, stock and barrel and released the first two Black Sands brews in October last year.

The Pilsener is a “SMASH” (single malt and single hop), while the India Pale Ale includes five malts and three different hops. Both are unfiltered (filtering reduces taste) and fined by natural sedimentation, unpasteurised and bottle conditioned. All the constituents are finest quality and apart from the yeast, all are products of New Zealand.

Ian and Peter describe their product as “Artisan” beers. There are three broad genera of craft beers: “gateway” (or entry level) which are generally similar to the major factory produced beers. At the other end of the scale are “cult beers” where the brewers go to extremes to achieve a “different taste.” Extremes can include anything, even bacon and wine gums. Sitting in the middle are the “artisan” beers that are hand-crafted, generally small volume and like the beers of old, with intense and complex flavours derived from the mix of malt and hops, the yeast, the temperature control and conditioning. Apparently the West Auckland water also contributes.

Ian and Peter are serious about having fun brewing first class beers that serious beer drinkers want to drink. “We can’t be all things to all people, so we brew beers that we like,” says Ian. Because we know what a good beer tastes like, we were confident the market would like them too.”

First results show that this confidence was fully justified and the two Black Sands beers currently available have already developed a loyal fan club (and accolades from connoisseurs). Interestingly, the principal market is among younger adults, including a significant proportion of women.

Next under the Black Sands label, will be a hoppy red ale and a Black Sandsblack ale which, like their predecessors, will be lovingly sculpted into an exact flavour and texture in the original microbrewery and then released onto what will probably be a very receptive market.

Black Sands beers are available in bottles and kegs of various capacities, and as a result, can be dispensed at Growler filling stations. Look for Black Sands in West Liquor outlets because we are proud to support great products that help ensure that “the West is best”.

Check out Black Sand’s Facebook page for more details